I play KSP. I also write mods for KSP. I further think that my opinions are generally super good ones. So, I present to you my list of awesome KSP mods, along with justification for why I think they’re worth downloading. Why am I putting it on this blog? So that I can keep track of it, and revise it when my thoughts change, and so that you, if you wish it, may benefit.
So, KSP is a fun game, but it focuses on comedy at the expense of both realism and gameplay. The mods I play with are generally aimed at a) improving gameplay, b) improving realism, or c) expanding the game to encourage replay and provide challenge for advanced players.
These mods are generally designed to make the game less tedious to play.
By default, KSP relies entirely on the user for timing events. While this isn’t a huge burden for flights that are kept close to home, this can require the player to sit and watch a ship fly through interplanetary space for the better part of an hour to complete missions to the outer solar system. Even for short term flights, Kerbal Alarm Clock is essential for carefully timing maneuvers without laboriously speeding up and slowing down time, hoping to get as close as possible to your planned maneuver without whizzing past.
A general lack of stability in “stack” joints in the stock game makes controlling long, thin rockets (as prudent for aerodynamic stability) an arduous task. KJR strengthens the joints of large rocket parts to make building bigger ships more fun.
With the advent of a “funds” currency, the KSP developers effectively penalize building large, disposable ships. While this isn’t a bad thing in itself, they left no option for thoughtful design to permit the recovery of spent launch stages, boosters, etc. StageRecovery works with or without parachute mods to estimate a final landing speed and recover funds from dropped stages, rewarding players for building reusable launch stages.
I designed TweakableEverything to add useful configuration options for common parts, mostly in the editor. It is designed to facilitate designing and building more complex vessels using the parts already available in the game, through options such as opening shielded docking ports to build a multi-stage ship with atmospheric abilities, opening solar panels to check clearances, and removing staging activation from decouplers for carry-along probes. This doesn’t change the core gameplay very much, but adds configurability that mid-level and advanced players will appreciate.
VOID adds literally no new functionality to the game — it just shows you the functionality that’s already there. The vanilla game lacks integrated display of any of the engineering, scientific, or kinetic data necessary to thoughtfully design mission vehicles, carefully align satellite constellations, or efficiently gather Science data. Any player interested in optimizing his or her game play in KSP will benefit from VOID, or something like it.
These mods are generally designed to improve or replace stock KSP simulations to add realism.
In the default Science and Career modes, all antennas are created equal, except for the heavy ones that suck. When simply having any antenna on your vessel is enough to transmit your data back to the homeworld, the only criterion to consider is weight, and the tiny monopole antenna provided at the start of the stock tech tree wins hands down. I designed AntennaRange to require the use of additional antennas, and encourage the application of small communications networks.
Deadly Reentry works alongside Ferram Aerospace Research and fairing mods, or on its own, to penalize players for throwing poorly-designed reentry vehicles deep into an atmosphere at interplanetary speeds. A part of the overall Realism Overhaul effort of the modding community, this mandates thoughtful vehicle design and mission planning.
The stock aerodynamics model is fundamentally flawed, with drag and lift varying based on things like mass and linear velocity. This means that craft do not interact meaningfully with atmospheres, causing unconscious confusion for new players, and frustration for players who are expecting a realistic aerodynamic response and getting something completely different. FAR implements a more realistic aerodynamic model, complete with Mach effects, that provides challenge for lift-based flight and consistency for powered-lift flight. This encourages thoughtful design of rockets and planes, and provides more opportunity for exploring design choices made by real aircraft designers.
While not really a realism mod in its own right, KW Rocketry provides a diverse selection of payload fairings and well-balanced engines. Fairings are a basic necessity when playing with FAR (and sometimes with Deadly Reentry), and the propulsion parts fill a number of gaps left in the stock selection, without overpowering the game.
When your Kerbals live forever, efficient mission design is not encouraged. TAC Life Support adds a simple set of resources necessary to keep your crew members alive, and tools for recycling those resources on extra long voyages.
RealChute replaces the current “all or nothing” parachute drag system with a plausible simulation that accounts for velocity, parachute area, and even fabric type. This adds realism and provides more options for parachute design, allowing meaningful tradeoffs to be made for parachutes intended for thinner or thicker atmospheres. It also improves gameplay: a more realistic parachute deployment means that parachutes are less likely to tear off your ship, leaving your Kerbals doomed to an implosive end.
Expanding the Game
Infernal Robotics adds a set of articulated, movable parts to the game, enabling players to produce much more complicated designs. This is best in conjunction with other late-game mods, like USI Kolonization Systems or KSP Interstellar, where such sophistication can be suitably rewarded.
Especially useful for aiding in orbital construction, KAS adds “grabbable” parts that allow players to effect small refits to existing spacecraft, reinforce orbital construction, or refuel old ships without docking ports.
Adding two full suites of parts for orbital and planetary station construction and management, along with resource harvesting and power generation systems, USI Kolonization Systems adds an “end game” challenge to KSP that allows players to enjoy using the expertise they gained flying all those missions to fill out the tech tree.